Detroit district begins in-person and virtual summer learning next week

A classroom with green walls and empty desks.
Summer school and its mix of virtual and in-person learning will preview how school buildings may operate in the fall. (cinderellasg/Flickr)

Nearly 4,000 Detroit school district parents signed up their children for summer school as the district prepares to roll out its offerings beginning Monday.

Half of those students will be learning in-person, while the other half will attend virtual classes. 

“It was important that we meet parents and students where they are at. Meaning, for some parents and students that is online and others that is face-to-face,” said Detroit district Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. 

Summer school and its mix of virtual and in-person learning will preview how school buildings may operate in the fall. It’s the first time COVID-related health and safety school measures will be put into practice and may be instructive for school districts revising their fall reopening plans, after school buildings were shuttered in March to slow coronavirus spread.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released Michigan’s reopening school guidelines last week, which outlined recommendations for school districts to keep students and staff safe. But as the number of positive coronavirus cases have risen since late June, Whitmer warns in-person classes may not resume if the uptick in cases continue. 

Offering in-person and virtual learning options is also a way for the district to address concerns over learning losses when school buildings closed in March due to the pandemic. 

The district will offer math and literacy courses for K-8 students, math, English, science, social studies, and other credit recovery for high school students. They’ll also offer dual enrollment college classes, where students can earn college credit. Vitti said more than 300 teachers applied for the 170 available summer school positions. 

The Detroit Public Schools Community District is also implementing many health and safety measures for summer in-person instruction, which mirror the guidelines in the district’s draft reopening plan. They include COVID-testing for employees, a requirement that students and staff wear masks, daily temperature and symptom checks, health and safety training, and daily cleaning of buildings. 

Community feedback on the district’s fall plan, which included details on summer school, showed that students, parents, and educators are still anxious about returning to in-person learning. 

Theresa Pringle, a parent of a Communication and Media Arts High School student who will be a senior this fall, shares those concerns. That’s why she requested a virtual learning option for her son’s credit recovery classes.

Right now, she just doesn’t feel comfortable sending him back to a classroom. 

“The numbers keep fluctuating with people catching a virus. [The staff] can take his temperature,” she said. “But just because you may not have a temperature now does not mean you may not have the virus.”

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